Plans approved to help Gaza evacuees find jobs

The ministerial committee for disengagement has approved proposals to help the Gaza and Northern Samaria evacuees find jobs. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said on Tuesday that the plans include giving evacuee-hiring incentives to employers, as well as providing professional training programs to the evacuees and jobs to those with disabilities. Emily Amrusy, a spokeswoman for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) said that of 2,200 people who lost their jobs because of disengagement only 250 have found work. "The question is whether the government can help them, because most of the people are uneducated, have only worked in agriculture and are not young anymore. It will be very hard to find jobs for them," she said. Her sentiments were echoed by Employment Service spokeswoman Batya Kuris, who said the organization had received 1,100 approaches from the Gaza evacuees. "We deal with salaried workers, and there is still a big problem with people who were farmers and don't have a profession," she said. The ministry has budgeted NIS 43 million to provide grants to local businesses that are located in preferred areas and employ former Gaza residents. The eligible companies can apply to receive 15% of the cost of the average wage of the extra workers, with the amount limited to NIS 120,000 per employee over a period of five years. One of the conditions is that the average wage be at least NIS 4,500 a month. The ministry expects to publicize the first allocations within the next few weeks. The government has allocated a further NIS 4.5m. to send evacuees to "On-the-Job Training" programs, and it intends to pay companies up to NIS 1,500 a month per worker for six-month courses. The businesses will then have to employ the workers for half a year after the end of the programs. Ya'acov Zigdon, deputy director-general of the employment service, said that since August only 79 people had started training courses. "Until now, people didn't want to go on programs because they had no way of earning money," he said. To solve this problem, evacuees that attend courses would be eligible to receive grants of NIS 3,300 a month - analogous to the minimum wage - and Zigdon expects 300 to enter programs in the next two and a half months. Evacuees who want to set up non-farming businesses in rural areas would be eligible to apply for grants of $20,000 each, and the government intends to construct a building in Nitzan, where many evacuees are located, for use by small businesses that operated in Gaza and Northern Samaria. Amrusy, however, was skeptical about the plan. "One building is not big enough. We need an industrial park for all the different businesses," she said.